Team UAE: From also-rans in 1996 to high-flyers in 2015
The United Arab Emirates National Cricket Team makes the short flight to the Subcontinent. At home, the public are keenly interested but mildly hopeful. It is, after all, the first time a Middle Eastern nation is going to a Cricket World Cup, a passion that has insofar primarily existed among a few European, African and a multitude of Asian nations sprinkled throughout the world.
Fast forward 19 years and on the surface, the United Arab Emirates is still the only nation representing Arabia at the World Cup. Scratch underneath, however, and the myriad changes that have taken place within leap forth with alacrity and bravado.
In the subcontinent all those years ago, the Emiratis made history when they took part in the world’s first associate cricket match at a World Cup and beat the Netherlands, Saleem Raza’s excellent knock of 84 saw them make it past the Dutch total of 216 for nine with a good five overs to spare, with Shaukat Dukanwala plundering five wickets at the cost of 29 runs from the Europeans.
But the UAE has always been on the forefront of cutting-edge development. It is only fitting then, that the nation’s cricket team has sought to not relegate their World Cup performances to a mere footnote in the annals of cricketing history.
Like any change for the better, the team’s metamorphosis has taken time. Away from the harsh glare of spotlights of international cricket, the groundwork was laid to spawn a new generation of athletes for the gentleman’s game.
The ICC Academy’s world-class facilities shaped the current vanguard of the nation’s cricket team, helping them claim five ACC Trophies, which may have garnered little global attention, but the trophies that now lay proudly on the team’s mantelpiece now glittered with the promise of something much more.
It is Down Under that the United Arab Emirates will shed their larval forms and assume the mantle of a much greater competitor in world cricket. Nascent signs of this germination bearing fruit were witnessed at the ICC Ovals, when veteran batsman Khurram Khan smashed an unbeaten 132, hitherto the highest ever score amassed by a UAE batsman en route to a handsome 282/4 against desert roses Afghanistan – who will also be at the World Cup.
Coach Aqib Javed and his team left for Oceania this morning aiming to rewrite history, and they carry with them not just the rekindled hopes and renewed dreams of a nation of nearly 10 million people, but the support of all of Arabia as well.
We wish them the very best and know full well that they will exceed expectations at the World Cup. For they might have gone to the Subcontinent as minnows.
But they travel to Australia and New Zealand as equals.